Getting Rid of My Least Favorite Camp Chore

I made a quick trip to REI today to pick up some last minute odds and ends. I haven’t needed to purchase much in the realm of new gear since I’m taking most of what I used on the AT. The two big ticket items I bought today were some trail runners and a Therm-a-Rest, even though I already own both. So why the REI run? As far as my trail runners go, my old ones are beat.

My Therm-a-Rest, however, is in great condition. It’s a NeoAir: amazingly comfy, lightweight, and compact. It came into my possession by way of a bit of trail magic, albeit possibly at some other poor hiker’s expense. I like to think it was purposely left behind at a shelter in Virginia and not merely forgotten, but it was a great find as it replaced my much heavier Therm-a-Rest that only came down to my knees. (If you are reading this and you lost a NeoAir in Virginia during the fall of 2016, let me know!)

Despite how great my NeoAir is, I am swapping it out for a thru-hiker staple, the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite: That ubiquitous yellow and silver foam pad you’ll see strapped to many a pack. I’m forgoing the luxury of sleeping on air so I can avoid my least favorite camp chore: blowing up my frickin’ mattress. I’ve generated a short list of why I’m ditching the inflatable for the old school foam pad.

Why Ditch My Inflatable

–You have to blow it up.

–I’m too tired to blow it up.

–You can’t easily pull it out for a comfy seat during the day.

–I just want to sleep.

–It makes loud, crinkly noises.

–It takes longer to pack up in the morning.

–I’m wasting my precious breath.

–I just don’t want to blow it up.


For the Colorado Trail, I plan to leave the inflatables at home and take my new ZLite. Will it be as comfy? Maybe not. Will it save time, aggravation, and my lungs? Absolutely.


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Comments 8

  • Hotwire : Jun 29th

    Have you ever used a pump sack? They are amazing and some double as a dry sack to keep critical things dry just in case. That being said the z-lite is great (can’t pop, perfect for snow and dogs)

    • Caitlin Doak : Jul 8th

      I have not! I am loving the zlite now though, I use it every time I take a break! I also line my whole pack with a garbage bag to keep everything dry.

  • Puddle Jumper : Jun 29th

    The Neoair mini pump is also a great option at 2.3oz, and the two required AAA batteries lasted the entire AT. Unfortunately, I have no solution to that Damn Crinkling!!!

    • Caitlin Doak : Jul 8th

      I’ve never tried the mini pump either… I have been pleasantly surprised by how well I sleep on the zlite though! Or maybe I’m just so tired I could sleep on anything haha

  • Mckillio : Jun 29th

    I have the sea to summit ultralight mattress and it only takes about 12 blows to fill up. It is a pain to pack up in the morning but I contacted them about this and they sent me a large size (I have a regular size mat) storage bag for it, which means I don’t have to perfectly fold and roll it, which will save me a lot of time.

    • Caitlin Doak : Jul 8th

      I didn’t even use a storage bag for my neo air, I just shoved it in my pack… 12 blows doesn’t seem to bad though! I have to say I do not miss blowing up my mattress. 5 days in and I am team zlite all the way!

  • S McKay : Jun 29th

    I’ve got a pump sack and it takes two full bags to fill my pad. So super easy and worth it for the night’s sleep. Bag doubles as a dry bag for my clothes so I don’t feel like I’m bringing extra gear…and as far as a seat goes, they make a sweet zpad which is super light and great…

    • Caitlin Doak : Jul 8th

      That sounds sweet! I don’t use a dry bag for my clothes currently since I line my pack with a trash bag, and I just shove my extra clothes in the empty space. I’ll have to check out the pump sacks if I ever decide to go back to an inflatable.


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